Anima Sana in Corpore Sano
Rather than writing about recent events or training, I thought this time to share some reflections about how I have been feeling recently and what I have learned about myself and my cycling since I started this blog.
‘Anima sana in corpore sano’, which roughly translates as ‘a healthy mind in a healthy body’.
These are wise and very true words spoken to me by a school teacher years and years ago when I completed my first school mini-triathlon. A certain Maarten Tjallingii was the overall winner that day (and he went on to achieve some pretty cool things in professional cycling), but I was the fastest female competitor. It was my beautiful aluminium ALAN race bike from 1982, which I had just received as a gift for my birthday, that made me fly through the Dutch country lanes to make up for my appalling swim and mediocre run.
‘Anima sana in corpore sano’. At the time I probably arrogantly took those words as praise. However, looking back now, perhaps he actually meant it as advice!
It’s amazing to notice how much your state of mind can affect your physical performance. The last few weeks have been absolutely amazing for me. I know this is a cycling blog, but I hope you don’t mind I share some details from my non-cycling life too.
- First there was our official wedding ceremony in the UK (a small affair with just one witness each, but still a great morning and an amazing surprise to receive a shout out for it on Eurosport during that day’s stage of the Criterium de Dauphine).
- The very next day it was my 35th birthday. I was so happy to be able to celebrate it in the beautiful Ardennes in the company of my fresh husband, my sister (who lives in Dubai), my best friend (who lives in Holland) as well as both my mum and her husband (who live in France) and my dad and his wife; a very special gathering indeed. I couldn’t have had a better day, starting with a birthday bike ride, followed by a nice walk along the river and a great evening by the camp fire.
- And then of course there was the wedding, which was simply the best party weekend ever and I felt the happiest I have ever been.
All these great happenings and positive feelings have had an equally positive effect on my cycling. I enjoy it more than ever and have achieved a handful of wins since, including a 04:01:11 in my first 100m TT.
I intend to hold on to all this positivity and block out all negativity because the opposite also holds true. I don’t tend to do very well when I am stressed, upset, tired or unhappy. The Nat100m TT last Sunday is an example of that. My saddle slipped and tilted all the way forward about 30-45mins into the ride. I tried to battle on, but it became quite painful and I eventually stopped after 1.5hrs to ask one of the marshals for an Alan key. I should have done it earlier, because by this point riding had become quite painful. Once I also started to get frequent cramps in my left hamstring, my mind went into quite a bad place. Although I certainly lost time because of the mechanical, I actually lost most time from feeling unhappy, in pain and demotivated to even continue if it would be for a bad time anyway. I wish my mind had been more powerful to push through it, but I also need to learn to listen to my body. Oh well at least I finished it. That is about the only good thing about that ride sadly.
The mind-body connection really is a powerful one and perhaps in time trialling (especially the longer distance ones) this aspect really gets tested. My confidence for the Nat12hr is a little bit shaken after that bad ride at the Nat100m TT, but I learned some lessons about preparing into the little details. Even if there are mechanical setbacks during the Nat12hr hopefully I will be able to deal with it better, at least mentally.
My final thought about the mind-body connection is “Do you enjoy something because you are relatively good at it, or is it because you enjoy something that you get better at it?”. A bit of both probably, but I really think that the key to improvement is enjoyment. Last year, I tried to improve my road and crit racing to no avail. I mostly spent each race being scared (to crash) and frustrated, lacking the skills, attitude and tactical understanding to do well at those kind of events. Having done a little mid-week race the other day at Hillingdon confirmed it once again, I am still strong but clueless and I came away from the race without any of the buzz I feel after a time trial. There is a brilliant and fast growing women’s road racing scene in the UK, but it really is horses for courses. I praise myself lucky to live in the UK, where there is an equally active time trialling scene. Perhaps there isn’t the same depth in the women’s field yet, but initiatives like the South East Women Time Trial Series (SEWTTS) are helping much to change that.
Finally, I would like to come back to the reflections I started this blog post with: ‘Anima sana in corpore sano’, it is definitely the mantra I intend to stick to. I hope it will help me in achieving my ultimate goal one day…. those 23mph for 12 hours.. we’ll see … 😉